the good the President has done
it does seem, is guilty of many things. The change of government
has created the capacity - and even an enthusiasm - for unearthing
the details of how she subverted the machinery of the state and
betrayed the trust placed in her by the people.
President to task is acceptable, but we must not forget that she
used the same presidential powers for many a good deed.
and the PA have taken pains to remind us of some of their most notable
achievements. Most notably, the President was able to forge the
possibilities for peace by developing the idea of devolving power
and initiating the Norwegian facilitation.
however, many other positive initiatives, which we have now forgotten.
I would like to draw attention to just one of them.
On her initiative,
supported by able advisors, the President in 1997 launched a task
force to formulate a tobacco and alcohol policy.
Some of the
recommendations made by the Task Force were, not surprisingly, resisted
by the alcohol and tobacco industry in Sri Lanka. To her credit
the President took a stand that was principled rather than merely
efficacious in pursuing the recommended policies.
draft legislation on the National Tobacco Alcohol Authority is still
to find its way through Parliament, the Tobacco Alcohol Unit at
the Presidential Secretariat has made tremendous advances in curbing
the production of illicit alcohol and generating data and analysis
for Sri Lanka with regard to tobacco and alcohol consumption and
the curtailment of adverse health effects.
One vital policy
recommendation was that tobacco taxes should be increased in step
with inflation so as to keep cigarettes from becoming cheaper in
real terms and that the tax revenue should be shared with the producer
in a way that increased the share of government revenue at least
in the same proportion as it increased the profits of the manufacturer.
(It is a little known fact that every time the government increases
the price of cigarettes a significant share of the price increase
is for the benefit of the manufacturer and only a portion of the
increase is an increase in the government tax.)
The Task Force
found that despite the tobacco tax bringing in more than 20 billion
rupees a year to the Treasury, there was not a dedicated official
who studied the taxation structure and sought to set and adjust
taxes in an optimal way. The Treasury relied exclusively on information
supplied to it by the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) in designing
a tax structure for the product.
is rarely accidental and there are no shortages of government bureaucrats
who act as spokesmen for CTC. The government revenue for the first
six months of this year was only Rs. 126.1 billion, falling 13 billion
short of the projected target. CTC revenue and profits, however,
have been rising. Even in 2001 when the company claimed to be most
affected by taxes on cigarettes, the profits were large enough to
result in a shareholder dividend of 36 percent. In the first three
months of this year, CTC net profits rose by 14.38 percent.
Yet, it is
in this backdrop of falling government revenue and increasing CTC
profits that the excise duty on cigarettes has been revised and
reduced. The justification for these reductions has been drawn from
the smokescreen that has been generated about smuggled cigarettes.
However, there is no government study that has corroborated the
figures that are regularly claimed by the CTC about loss of revenue
due to smuggling.
of rupees in government revenue are at stake, the Treasury has been
accepting without independent study these claims made by the industry.
It is in this
context of industry pressure and alleged bureaucratic collusion
(which if not resulting from corruption is tantamount at least to
criminal negligence) that the President took a principled position
with regard to policy and moved forward on the recommendations of
the Task force.
There was perhaps
much that the President jeopardised in terms of personal ambition
such as funding for election campaigns and support of the business
community by the bold decisions that she made. But it is precisely
this capacity of the President to, sometimes, courageously stand
up for principles rather than always making decisions purely on
effective and manipulative motives that still makes her an attractive
leader for the people of Sri Lanka.
that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their
bones," said Shakespeare. The President today is perhaps in
danger of falling victim to this sad reality, and many who suffered
her alleged wrongdoings may even rejoice at the prospect. But for
the sake of fairness we must try not to forget the good.
has rightly been called to account for the billions lost to the
Treasury on the import of luxury cars. But we must simultaneously
recognise the billions that the Treasury gained by the principled
approach the President took, over the taxation of cigarettes.
ask on what rationale and what study the tobacco taxes were reduced?
Was it perhaps a payoff for funding the election campaign of the
new government? What is the difference between a billion rupee loss
to the Treasury on luxury cars for one election campaign, and a
billion rupee loss on reduced cigarette taxes as a payoff for supporting
Nishan de Mel
Project Chairman clarifies
This is in response to a letter by A.T.S. Paul in The Sunday
Times of September 1, 2002. We wish to clarify the following:
Hope is a project
undertaken by the Sri Lankan Cricketers' Association and the Lions
Club of Colombo Somerset District 306 B. The project aims at raising
Rs. 750 million towards the construction of a 750-bed cancer hospital.
with an MoU signed with the Government of Sri Lanka on April 3,
2002, land was allocated within the premises of the Cancer Institute
Maharagama for the project. As per the MoU, on completion of the
construction of the hospital, it will be handed over through the
Ministry of Health to the Cancer Institute Maharagama which will
run it. Details were provided through a news conference on March
19, 2002.) Furthermore, the government provided charity status to
the Hope project on June 12, 2002.
with regard to this project is available at the project office at
16A, Ward Place, Colombo 7.
been expressed by Mr. Paul on the fact there is no office completely
dedicated to this project. We wish to clarify that the project office
is within the premises of Isuru Engineering, the Managing Director
of which is Mahesh Pasqual, a member of the Lions Club of Colombo
Somerset and a Region Chairman of Lions Club International District
other charities and NGOs, all those working on this project are
doing these a voluntary basis and are not receiving any remuneration.
We would like to point out that they are investing a large part
of their time and resources for no tangible gain. The endeavour
is to ensure that funds are generated as quickly as possible so
as not to exceed the budget for constructing the hospital due to
in mind, lapses in providing adequate information may have occurred.
While we appreciate Mr. Paul for pointing out these lapses we regret
the inconvenience caused to him. As requested by him names of the
office bearers of the project are as follows.
(1) Lion Mahesh Pasqual - Chairman. (2) Roshan Mahanama - Vice Chairman.
(3) Lion Marlon Bakelmun - Secretary. (4) Lion Senarath Jayawardena
- Assistant Secretary. (5) Lion Upali Samarasinghe - Treasurer.
(6) Lion Lalith Hewage - Assistant Treasurer. (7) Mahela Jayawardena
- Board Member. (8) Sanath Jayasuriya - Board Member. (9) Marvan
Attapattu - Board Member. (10) Lion Iqbal Hassanally - Board Member.
(11) Lion Nazmy Thayyib- Board Member. (12) Lion Janaka Hapangama
- Board Member. (13) Chandana Liyanapatabendy - Board Member.
M/s. Ernest & Young, 201, De Saram Place, Colombo 10. Key patrons
Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association and Lions Club of Colombo Somerset
District 306 B
Chairman, Hope Project
behaviour of ministerial kids
Recently newspapers reported an incident where the son and
grandson of two prominent ministers of the UNF government had misbehaved
at a private party in Colombo. One of them when chastised by the
organisers over their behaviour reportedly asked, "Do you know
who I am?". He reportedly made a complaint to the police saying
an organiser had assaulted him. The police promptly acted on it
and produced the organiser in court.
brings to mind the so-called Kekilla justice. While the final outcome
of the case in point is unclear, the fact remains that these two
youngsters behaved with impunity in public, thinking they could
transcend the laws of the land solely because their fathers or grandfathers
happened to be ministers.
This is not
the first incident of its kind. The son of another minister pulled
a more violent stunt at a new-year party and made the participants
run for their lives. On that occasion, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
reportedly advised the minister concerned to rein in his son from
bringing disrepute to the government. Unfortunately, other ministers
seem to have failed to appreciate the precedent and warn their own
children against such behaviour.
of ministers (and MPs) should understand that their parents hold
a high position, thanks to the common people who voted them in and
pay for their luxury comfort. Should the politicians' children fail
to see this, it is the duty of their parents to enlighten them.
We were proud as Sri Lankans when our lion-hearted cricket
team won the Morocco Cup
by defeating South Africa and Pakistan. Swarnavahini had the privilege
of telecasting all the matches for the Sri Lankan viewing public.
But it was unfortunate that we were denied viewing the matches fully.
Cup consisted of seven limited over games. The number of overs bowled
was 674. We had to watch two to four advertisements in between overs.
By trying to show those ads, the viewers were denied seeing the
first ball of the starting over, almost every time.
to that, at the end of every over, as soon as the bat hit the sixth
ball of the over, the cricket was discontinued and the advertisement
from the time the bat hit the ball, to the moment the umpire called
'over' was not known to us; we could only guess. There were instances
that the sixth ball was a 'no ball' and the next ball was not shown
please do not disappoint the cricket loving public the next time
your channel shows international cricket matches.
to the Editor' should be brief and to the point.
Address them to:
'Letters to the Editor,
The Sunday Times,
P.O.Box 1136, Colombo.
Or e-mail to
Please note that letters cannot be acknowledged or returned.